Phosphorus, element number 15, was first isolated by German alchemist Hennig Brand in c.1674. While phosphorus is very common on earth, its high reactivity means that is not found as a free element and must be separated from the other constituents in the compounds it forms. In 1777, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier was the first to recognize phosphorus as an element.

The name comes into English from classical Latin, where Phosphorus is a name for the planet Venus. The name comes ultimately from the Greek; the roots are φως- (phos-, light) + -φόρος (-phoros, bringer). So phosphorus is the light-bringer, and the element is named for its luminescent properties.

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